TRIATHLON: Gold Country Triathlon Club sends 11 to Santa Rosa Ironman | TheUnion.com

TRIATHLON: Gold Country Triathlon Club sends 11 to Santa Rosa Ironman

For some, it will be their very first time. For others, their last. For all participating, it will be a daylong test of mental and physical strength and endurance.

Eleven members of the local Gold Country Triathlon Club are heading to Santa Rosa Saturday where they will endure and embrace the 2.4 mile open water swim, the 112-mile bike ride and the 26.2 mile run that is the Santa Rosa Ironman Triathlon.

"For those doing it for the first time, they will learn a lot of lessons," said longtime club member Tiana Rockwell, who will be competing in her sixth Ironman triathlon. "For those doing it again, we're also going to learn a lot of lessons. No two races are ever the same and they're all equally addictive."

Rockwell added she is also excited to be running alongside such a large contingent of her fellow club members.

"It's hard for me not to get choked up just thinking about everyone finishing," she said. "Being out on the course with everybody is going to be great. I'm just so proud of everybody."

Joining Rockwell in the race will be fellow club members Mike Alexander, Heather Bullis-Cruz, Justin Cory, Eddie Cruz, Jim Ford, Heather Ann Halls, Linda Hegle, Michele Hughes, Mike Marschik and Jim Pelton.

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FIRST TIMERS

The Santa Rosa Ironman will be the first Ironman distance triathlon for both Ford and Halls.

"I'm not getting any younger," said the 59-year old Ford, who took up the sport in 2014. "It's kind of on the bucket list. So, I figured I better get it going now…I think it's going to be great. I'm looking forward to it. I'm ready to go."

For Halls, the goal is a simple one.

"I just want to finish it," Halls said. "I've been doing halves for a while, and it seems a little insane to up it by double, but I'm feeling good, feeling strong."

Both Ford and Halls said they are excited to tackle the full Ironman distance after have completed sprint, Olympic and half triathlons in the past.

WEALTH OF KNOWLEDGE

Halls and Ford can lean on the knowledge and advice of their multiple club mates that bring Ironman experience into the event.

"The triathlete community really likes to pay it forward," said Michele Hughes, who will be competing in her fourth Ironman. "Someone helped me when I started and I'm happy to do the same."

Her advice: Don't over train, eat healthy and get plenty of sleep.

Fellow club member Bullis-Cruz will be competing in her fourth Ironman, and will be doing so along with her husband Cruz, who will be competing in his second Ironman.

She said first timers should trust their training, relax and enjoy the day.

For Bullis-Cruz and Cruz, the goal for the day is the same — finish, feel good and have fun.

Rockwell said she likes to impart the same advice her father gave to her before her first triathlon.

"You only get to do your first Ironman once so make it memorable," she said. "I don't want to say take it slow, but take it all in."

NEVER TOO LATE

For Hegle, who turns 70 this year, this is her second Ironman after completing one in 2014.

"This will be my second and my last," she said with a smile. "I want to prove to myself that I can do it again. That it wasn't a fluke. That I really am able to rise to the challenge and get it done."

Hegle, who didn't begin competing in triathlons until her late 50s, added, "It's never too late to start something new. As long as you start gradually and listen to your body, you can do it."

For more information about the Gold Country Triathlon Club visit http://www.goldcountrytriclub.com. To learn more about the Santa Rosa Ironman visit http://www.ironman.com.

To contact Sports Editor Walter Ford, call 530-477-4232 or email wford@theunion.com.